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If you ask the oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook, in the NHL Eastern Conference, there is the Tampa Bay Lightning and then there is everyone else. This is understandable, considering the Lightning were just four points shy of the 76-77' Montreal Canadiens single-season points record.
The Lightning (+105) have the best odds to win the 2019 Eastern Conference Championship by a sizable amount. The Boston Bruins (+600) and Washington Capitals (+700) are the only other teams that even have odds in striking distance of Tampa Bay. None of the remaining contenders have odds better than +1000 to win the East. The New York Islanders and the the Pittsburgh Penguins are at +1100, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs at +1400, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets at +1600.
This being said, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an unpredictable beast and if you are looking for a couple of long shots that could have a chance to surprise people this postseason, look no further.
The New York Islanders are at +1100, but if they can get past Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and company in the first round they could have a shot at taking the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are led by their new head coach, Barry Trotz, who won the 2018 Stanley Cup as the coach of the Washington Capitals and he has done a great job of picking up the pieces in New York after the departure of long-time star, John Tavares.
The Islanders allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season surrendering just 2.33 goals per game, which is well below the league average of 2.98. A key factor in the Islanders stingy defense this season was the play of their goaltenders Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss and Christopher Gibson, who led the league with a combined save percentage of .925. If the Islanders goalies can stay hot, they could be a very tough out this postseason.
If you are like John Tavares and the Islanders aren't doing it for you, his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1400) are also a long shot with a chance to take the Eastern Conference. Tavares joined a talented roster with fellow stars Austin Mathews and Mitchell Marner, and it resulted in a potent offensive attack. Toronto was fourth in the NHL in goals scored this season, netting 286, and it has the fire power to win a shootout against any team.
Toronto does have a tough rematch of last year's first-round playoff series with the Bruins, but look for it to avenge that seven game series loss and make a run at the Stanley Cup in 2019.
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